STEUBENVILLE - A local fan website relating to sports at Steubenville High School once again was taken over Tuesday and Wednesday by the hacktivist group Anonymous, protesting what the group contends is a cover-up concerning the rape trial of two high school students.
The homepage to www.rollredroll.com previously had been taken over by the loosely knit Internet hacking group earlier this week, but was removed Monday after the site's owner, Jim Parks, had the content removed. However, the group hacked its way back to take over the website again Christmas Day, with updates and additional materials the group claims prove more individuals were involved in the alleged rape of a teenage girl on Aug. 11-12.
Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale and Malik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville, Steubenville Big Red student-athletes, are scheduled to go on trial before visiting Judge Tom Lipps Feb. 13 for the alleged rape.
Parks, the site owner and webmaster, couldn't be contacted for comment Wednesday. However, a report at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department Wednesday morning showed Parks lodged a complaint he was getting calls from what the report said were members of Anonymous.
The privately operated and owned website isn't connected with the school in any way, but Parks previously said he believed his site was targeted as a result of a New York Times article published Dec. 16. The lengthy article put the trial in the national spotlight, and celebrities, including comedian and actress Roseanne Barr, commented on the trial and controversy through Twitter.com.
The New York Times also carried a story on Anonymous taking over the website on the sports page in its Wednesday issue.
Parks also previously denied any knowledge of the incident or any of the high school students involved. The site typically posts information on Steubenville High School sports, including statistics, photos and schedules of various sporting events. Parks previously said Anonymous basically took over the website's home page through its central server site in Texas, and the group's accusations against him were "ridiculous."
Cached copies of two videos made by the shadowy group also were floating around the Internet, along with a video that is on the hijacked website. In the video, a figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask with an electronically altered voice named individuals Anonymous claims also were involved in the alleged rape but who have not been charged. Additionally in the videos, Anonymous threatened to release Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and personal information about those it claimed were involved in the rape incident by Tuesday, unless they publicly apologized.
The hijacked homepage of Rollredroll.com also contained links to tweets allegedly made by members of what Anonymous claimed were a self-dubbed "rape crew," formed for the purpose of taking photos of women being abused by Steubenville High School students.
The homepage includes a message posted that reads "Greetings Citizens of the world, we are Anonymous, we are KnightSec. On Dec. 23, 2012, we released a video detailing the story of a young rape victim in Steubenville, Ohio, who was attacked by the Big Red High School football team and raped and kidnapped, carried party to party unconscious and intoxicated. Only two members were charged with the actual crimes, when everyone present was guilty." The message ends with, "We ask the proper authorities do not allow the cover-up of this potential criminal ring, and the victims do not go unprotected."
Twitter.com and Facebook.com are reporting that two protests are being organized in support of what Anonymous is calling "Operation Roll, Red Roll." The first is scheduled for noon Saturday and the second for Jan. 5. Both protests are scheduled to be held in the area near Steubenville City Hall on Third Street. Anonymous also references the Occupy movement as being part of the planned protests on the website.
A Tweet on twitter.com indicated Barr was among those who planned to take part in Saturday's protest.
Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said Wednesday he had no knowledge of any protests being planned, and no one has contacted him regarding any.
"(Protesters) can do anything they want as long as it's lawful and they don't block any streets," said McCafferty, adding if streets are blocked by protesters, it will require a city permit.
Anonymous reportedly began in 2003 and gained a broader profile several years ago with a cyber attack on the religion Scientology and its affiliated sites. Since then the group has targeted websites of different countries, international banks, formed an alliance with the Occupy movement and most recently attacked and hacked into the website for the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas because of church members' threats to protest at funerals for victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
The Guy Fawkes mask worn by members is borrowed from the 2005 movie "V For Vendetta," in which a man trying to lead a future uprising against a fascist British government dons the mask and ultimately leads a revolution. Some individuals associated with Anonymous have been arrested in several countries in the past five years for hacking activities, but the group has no formal structure.
This is the second incident of individuals on the Internet getting involved in the peripherals of the trial, as in October the family of a Steubenville High School student filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court against the the operator of an Internet blog site that claimed their son has been defamed in connection with a rape investigation.
(Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)